Rio de Janeiro

Fri, 11 Apr 2008 10:39:13 +0000

Back in Sao Paulo Index Touristing in Rio

Do you know, I completely forgot about the dengue fever outbreak. Clearly, I'm going to die.

The day started with another of those magnificent breakfasts from the Sao Paulo youth hostel. I slightly overslept, which meant I missed having the pao de quejo when they were still warm, but they were still fabulous. I stuffed myself silly, because you should take these opportunities when they present themselves.

The bus turned out to be the most luxurious I've yet come across. They even handed out snacks and a drink as we boarded. The bus was mostly empty, so I had no neighbour. The scenery wasn't much to look at until close to Rio de Janeiro, where there were some rather nice hills with palm trees and other tropical-looking plants lining the road. We did stop at another of those motorway services things, just like the last one. I had an excellent slice of chicken pie, although the coconut chocolate-crackle-looking thing was far too sugary for me to eat, and I gave up about two thirds of the way in.

We got in about half an hour late, at half past four. I had very poorly prepared for my arrival: I didn't even have the address of the hostel, although I had some vague instructions. So I went to an Internet cafe to try to figure it out. Now, the hostel's website says to catch bus #2018 to copacabana. But all the buses seemed to have three digit numbers - except just one, that I saw briefly, #2011. So I sat at that bus stop for ages watching bus after bus to copacabana sail by. And that bus stop by the terminal is one scary place to be, full of aggressive hawkers and street kids.

After a while one guy spoke to me, but I honestly had no idea if he was trying to sell me something or give me advice. Then I decided to get my money ready for the bus. Big mistake. A couple of street kids noticed me flashing my wallet, and started hassling me for change. I just said "No. No. No." a lot, but they were persistent. After a while the younger one got fed up and started flicking water at me from his water bottle. Another bloke waiting at the bus station told them off for this, which didn't help, but after a bit they got bored and wandered off.

Then a nice bloke who spoke English came up to me and warned me that I should look after my belongings. Of course I was already in full paranoia mode, with my bag clipped up and my hand on it. But he pointed out my backpack on the ground. I had decided that was OK, since I was keeping it in the corner of my eye as I waited for the bus. But he had a point, I should carry it. Someone could try to grab it. Of course, the heavy bag would slow them down and I could chase them. But if I was trying to pull off such a stunt, I'd have an accomplice waiting to trip me up. What's more, even if the idea is stupid, you can't be sure that the solvent fumes won't convince some kid to try it anyway. Paranoia can be a good thing sometimes.

The nice bloke then asked where I was going, and when I showed him my scrawled directions, he just showed me onto one of the copacabana buses. He even spoke to the conductor to ask her to let me know when I was at the right stop. I've never seen such random kindness to a tourist. Of course, the unfortunate thing is that I'm trained to be suspicous of that kind of thing, since it's usually a scam of some sort. I guess the residents of Rio are pretty sensitive about their city's reputation for crime, and try to prevent tourists getting into trouble.

So I found the way to the hostel with few problems. Seems quite a nice place. I have a roommate from Ecuador, who apparently is here to attend a lecture on evolutionary psychology. That's pretty good, I haven't heard of people travelling just to attend a lecture before.

I went out for a bite to eat, and had some rather-better-than-Sao-Paulo orange juice and a bacon and cheese pastry thing. This was from an excellent little shop just around the corner that has freshly baked bread, pastries, savoury snacks, and a little grocery section. If I was staying here longer, I need never go anywhere else.

So then back to the hostel to go on the Internet and figure out just what the hell I'm going to do in Rio de Janeiro. Wikitravel has a big page about Rio de Janeiro, and it sounds a bit daunting. I guess I'll visit the beach, do the Christ the Redeemer thing, a few obvious bits and pieces. But I'll try not to kill myself trying to cram all the sights into two days.

And speaking of killing myself, how about that dengue fever outbreak, huh? I had that at the back of my mind a couple of times, but thought it was one of the things I'd been innoculated against. Nope, no vaccine for dengue fever, the only prevention is not to get bitten. Wikitravel has put me into an utterly paranoid mood now. I haven't seen a single mosquito for weeks, so I guess that's a good sign. On the downside, I appear to have been bitten by something on my shin. It's just below where my sock was, so I'm hoping it was a flea or a bedbug or something. Presumably my chances of getting dengue fever from one mosquito bite are pretty low. And the big upside is, if I get sick, symptoms should appear while I'm in Toronto, so I can easily find an English-speaking doctor to test me. I'll spray myself with DEET in the meantime, of course, but every itch is going to send me into paroxysms of hypochondria.

But enough of such things. I have a list of targets for tomorrow, so we'll see how much of Rio de Janeiro I manage to have a look at. It's a huge city, and I can't imagine what I would do if this was London and I knew nothing about it. Spend two days getting lost, probably. Do that here and I'll wind up wandering into a favela and being murdered, so I've mapped things out pretty carefully. Let's try and see the nice side of Rio.

Back in Sao Paulo Index Touristing in Rio